9-11 Truth for Peace and Justice- Bay Area Report on 4th Anniversary Events
In a month, the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance concluded their 9-11 Truth Art Contest and sent out prizes, finished a movie of their comedy/benefit- Behind Every Terroris- There is a Bush, produced a newsletter, and organized a rally, march and two 9-11 Film Festivals; this is the report.
The Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance, dubbed "Ground Zero for the 9-11 Truth Movement" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, has always taken a lead role in street actions, even when 9-11 Truth was a taboo issue. Simply organizing large events, raising the visibility and legitimacy of our questions about 9-11, which the official sources and press have failed to address, has helped to spark dialogue, debate and support within the Peace and Justice community, and the ever-increasing anti-Bush Movement.
Our art contest, with the theme "9-11 Truth for Peace and Justice" was another attempt to strengthen a coalition between the Truth Movement and the Peace and Justice Movement. For months, I tried to persuade those organizing the 7th Annual 9-11 Power to the Peaceful Concert with Michael Franti and Spearhead to include a 9-11 Truth speaker at the event. They were interested in Cynthia McKinney last year (the theme being- "get out the vote"). This year's theme was "bring em home."
I still hoped that they would allow her to speak; Cynthia continues to be our champion in Congress, holding briefings that challenged the 9-11 Commission's Report. I guess we didn't fall into the "theme" of the event. We also wanted to have a voice at their Social Justice Forum, scheduled for September 11, 2005, but when we were told "no," after months of "hemming and hawing," we gave up on working with them and decided that we had best do something on our own, with time running out, and the anniversary looming nearer. I did finally talk with the organizer of the Social Justice Forum and offered to share our space with them, and they did consider joining us, but they had already printed posters and decided it was too late to change venues. We might be able to do something together next year, now that I know who to contact, within their organization.
We decided to do our fourth annual rally and march to the 9-11 Power to the Peaceful Concert, and a 9-11 Film Festival with Discussions, Dialogue, Reflection at the Veteran's War Memorial Building in San Francisco, both low-key events, compared to last year, when we were frantically still trying to break the 9-11 story prior to the election. Veteran's for Peace and our allies in the Peace and Justice community co-sponsored and endorsed our events. We were surprised to get a call from the owner of the Grand Lake Theater offering his theater for a 9-11 Film Festival on September 11th. We could hardly refuse such a generous offer, although we had scant time to do publicity and outreach. We did the best we could under the circumstances. I sent out press releases, calendar listings, public service announcements for all three events. We also tried to put together our newsletter, though it never made it into the mail in a timely fashion, and we ended up passing them out (not in a polished state) at the events; we also made 10,000 beautiful handbills with all the events listed. However, the press completely ignored us with a few minor exceptions- KPOO 89.5 Radio, 960 AM- The Quake, and KPFA's Guns and Butter.
Hurricane Katrina hit late August and people were perishing in early September, and certainly deserved the media's attention. There were many horrific parallels to 9-11, including FEMA's rather abysmal failure to help the victims and the actions they took to prevent aid, food, water from reaching people when it was most needed. When I made press phone calls, I was told bluntly that they were more interested in Hurricane Ophelia than any local events.
Everyone was moved by the plight of New Orleans, and trying to fathom the truth about the events, the meaning of the government's response, and what it meant for the future of New Orleans and the country. Our San Francisco event, seemed to be a good place for the conversations and discussion to take place. We suggested that people bring food and drink to share, to think about the victims of Katrina when we were hungry or thirsty during our fourteen hour event. The monies donated towards food or drink ($250) was sent to one of the "Grassroots/Low-income/People of Color-led Hurricane Katrina Relief organizations" listed on the Indymedia New Orleans website (at www.sparkplugfoundation.org/katrinarelief.html )
In addition to organizing events, we finished editing and began producing a DVD of our comedy benefit- Behind Every Terrorist - There is a Bush. At our San Francisco meeting in September, not only were twenty of us stamping envelopes for our newsletter, we were fitting the slip sheet-covers of the comedy event into the plastic DVD boxes. Frank Runninghorse reminded me in August of the fact that we were all "mere mortals" and can't do everything, knowing that I have a tendency to try to do more than humanly possible. Reality came crashing through at the September meeting when it became apparent that because of birthdays, computer crashes, a white water rafting trip, time limits, the newsletter just wasn't going to be mailed in a timely fashion, despite all the time and effort put into it. Our new $1000 copying machine crashed and had to be replaced. People got sick. Ken Jenkins had to miss Saturday's events to finish editing the film to be shown on Sunday. Every grassroots' effort requires time, dedication and the Herculean efforts of many, many volunteers. Last year a windfall of a $5000 gift from the eccentric Jimmy Walters allowed us to place two full page ads in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. This year we didn't have a windfall, nor even the time, to place ads. We put stamps and labels on the handbills and stuck them in the post to our 500 local contacts.
On Saturday, September 10th, 2005, I got up very early to reach Speedway Meadow at 7 AM where I set up the tables and awning. Becky, Bob and Bonnie came by 9 AM to look after things while I went to the rally. I was the first one there, early for a change. Parking is never easy and by 10:30- 11:00 AM our rally swelled to about 40-50 people- no press, but lots of cameras, and Gypsy filmed much of it for her local 9-11 television show. We had two large banners, plenty of signs, Nikolas brought a fancy sound system rigged to a bike trailer (I wish I had known in advance, so we could have installed some great 9-11 songs).
There were some new folks and lots of solidly staunch 9-11 Truth activists, and certainly a great feeling of community and cooperation. Joel sang some great satirical songs. Frank Runninghorse, Dave Kimball from Sacramento, and I spoke briefly. Pat Gray, who ran on the Green Party ticket against the war monger, Tom Lantos, also spoke passionately. We organized ourselves and took to the streets, chanting and singing along the way. We came up with new chants. My favorite was:
9-11 was an Inside Job
Orchestrated by the Cheney Mob
9-11 was a Special Op
Only Justice Gonna Make Them Stop
We had plenty of handbills, literature, Deception Dollars to pass out along the way. The public gave us the thumbs up and cheers of approval. The police did notice us, eventually, and tried to get our attention as we neared Golden Gate Park, but we basically ignored them, and they did not try to impede us. We were loud, in good spirits, practicing our chants, til we figured out all the words.
At the Concert, we stopped to pick up the big Deception Dollar banner and made our way to the stage and then wound our way back through the meadow. Our tables were the organizing point and people would grab stacks of material to pass out to the crowds, until we finally ran out of our handbills. Last year an estimated 50,000 people came to the concert. It looked like between 40-50,000 came this year. Lots of people visited the table, signed our contact list and picked up books, DVDs, magazines, buttons, bumper stickers, CDs. We certainly felt that we were doing a public service and that our efforts were appreciated.
Sunday, September 11th, 2005, I was on my way to San Francisco at 7 AM to prepare for our marathon 9 AM to 11 PM event at the Veteran's War Memorial Building. Ahead of me was Bob, who facilitated the Open Space part of the event and had a circle of chairs set up in Room 207 and created a board of events on the wall where people could add to the set program. Ed Spencer brought a carload of food and drinks which he generously donated towards the Hurricane relief effort. People came to help set up, haul supplies, bring equipment. We had seven large rooms at our disposal, and we proceeded to orient folks in our socializing, food, music, art, tabling room. The Opening Circle drew together a small handful of the most impassioned activists, but people continued to join us throughout the day. Presentations began at 10 AM, plus the poster "discussions." In some ways, it was like the San Francisco Inquiry, minus the continual speakers/films in the Herbst Theater. The Guidelines were:
Whoever comes is the right person.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have..
Whenever it starts is the right time.
Whenever it's over, it's over.
Be prepared to be surprised .
Rule (only one)
The Law of Motion and Responsibility (originally called the Law of Two Feet) -- If you are neither learning nor contributing in a session you are required to get up and leave and go where you feel you'll be more useful and inspired.
Everyone did what they wanted to do. There were many presentations, conversations, discussions to choose from. Around noon we began showing films, in two rooms. Since people were scattered throughout the second floor, I can only guess that between 150 and 200 people came to participate, at some point, during the day.
We had some great music performed by Annie and the Vets, Steven Gray and Lua- Estela Knott and David Berzonsky. Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone updated their talks to include the recent events in New Orleans. Christian Pecaut basically took over Room 223 for the entire day and became so enthralled that he forgot to show his scheduled film and lead the follow-up discussion.
For months I had been trying to bring together Jim Hoffman, webmaster of http://911review.com/ and Paul Cox, our great ally with Veteran's for Peace, to discuss the collapse of the World Trade Center, as I have deep respect for both of them. With the help of Robert who brought the projector, Jim and Paul who brought computers, Henry Dakin who brought the screen, Sarah Seeds who moderated, we were finally able to have an intelligent debate over the causes of the collapse. (This was somewhat marred by the fact that Paul's wife was stabbed in the hand on the BART and phoned to let him know that she was in the hospital. She encouraged him to go ahead with the talk, but he had to leave for the hospital, as soon as it was over).
In the closing circle were over 60 people, we passed a talking rock and each had a chance to share their thoughts, feelings, insights, inspirations. Much articulated was shared by all and it was a powerful, heartening experience, and good to realize that we were part of a much larger circle of people working for truth, peace and justice.
In Oakland, the 9-11 Film Festival began at 1 PM and lasted well past 11 PM. Bonnie Faulkner, producer of KPFA's Guns and Butter, hosted the event, which was a benefit for the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance and Project Censored. Peter Phillips, Director of Project Censored, Riva Enteen, Researcher- Lois Battuello, and Ken Jenkins also spoke between films. Throughout the day generally over a hundred people were in attendance, many were new to 9-11 and those tabling in the lobby (Project Censored, Guns and Butter, and the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance), actually ran out of books, magazines, and DVDs, there was so much demand for more information. A surprise hit was footage of Gypsy blowing the whistle on the 9-11 Commissioners in San Francisco and confronting them with the unanswered questions. A surprise gaff was the footage on the DVD of Mohamed Atta and the Flying Circus which wasn't supposed to be shown and drove people to leave the theater and complain. Hopsicker included interviews with Mohamed Atta's stripper girlfriend who spoke about sexual perversions of men that had nothing to do with 9-11. Behind Every Terrorist- There is a Bush was well received, although the documentary on the San Francisco International Inquiry into 9-11, which should have followed it, was not shown for some unknown reason.
Apparently, publicity is required to have larger turnouts at events. Usually for big events, we do more publicity and place big ads, but this time, we didn't have time, and relied upon the press to notice and mention our events. The San Francisco Bay Guardian, which did a 5088 word cover story on 9-11 last March, just did a cover story on Project Censored, who have just come out with a new book and a new list of the most censored stories of last year. However, the San Francisco Bay Guardian failed completely to even mention or list the Oakland 9-11 Film Festival (which was a benefit for Project Censored), even though the Project Censored Cover Story came out on the fourth anniversary of September 11th, although they did list our events in San Francisco.
I believe we are in the midst of a communications revolution, and we need to improve our communications on every level, especially as more and more people are beginning to realize that the corporate press is doing them a disservice and is losing its credibility. Communication needs to be strengthened horizontally, within groups, communities, families, and friends. I did the best I could under the time restraints, but I was unable to contact even my immediate group of friends about our upcoming events, let alone all the members of the press.
I am heartened by the nationwide grassroots response to the mushrooming information produced challenging the official story on 9-11. 9-11 TV, which our group has been sponsoring for the past year, has been sending out 9-11 Truth materials to community access television stations across the country and the network continues to grow, as does the demand for more and more 9-11 television programs.
The Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance has amassed hundreds of hours of footage, and my hope is to produce a better hour length 9-11 documentary to complement our comedy event- Behind Every Terrorist- There is a Bush DVD which currently includes the 28 minute documentary on the San Francisco International Inquiry into 9-11. While all means of communication are important, film remains the most potent tool to reach the widest possible audience. We have so much information, but we need a succinct story to convey the essence of what happened. We also want to empower people to respond to the current situation, and enable them to help turn the course of history, to get the US off the warpath. I hope that humanity, as a whole, can redirect resources from killing and controlling people to healing and nurturing peaceful, cooperative, respectful relationships between all people and nations. One can see that the tide is beginning to turn, conflicting forces are churning the waters, and we need to be able to help point people towards hope, a better future than that offered by "endless war."
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